UN-MASKING THE CARING CITY
ENTER OUR FIRST ONLINE EXHIBITION: MASSCARING! UNMASKING THE CARING CITY
MassCaring! Un-masking the caring city is urban femina’s first exhibition. Initially intended to be held on December 1st, 2020 in UNION KBH, a culture house located in the Nørrebro neighbourhood in Copenhagen, this project also had to adapt to the so-called ‘weird times’ we are living in. First, the date was postponed to December 8th. Then, due to an increase of COVID-19 cases in Denmark and following the official call of the authorities to “avoid gatherings'', we had to reinvent ourselves based on our values: taking care of ourselves and the others. Finally, we decided to give it an online life. Regardless of where you are or how COVID-19 has affected your life so far, we want to bring this exhibition closer to you. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did throughout this process.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic shed light on the importance of CARE in our global world. This exhibition opens a space to imagine a more caring urban future in a post-pandemic era, through interactive exhibits, games and arts. The Caring City paradigm is a holistic approach which promotes a structural and systemic reformulation of values and principles prioritizing humans, social well-being, and ecological systems instead of capital accumulation and economic profit. In short, a caring city is where people and the environment are prioritized over profit.
This exhibition space attempts to critically rethink our current realities: we experience complexity, uncertainty and opportunities simultaneously. The pandemic disrupted every aspect of life: the way we inhabit, work, move, eat, feel, interact and think. Yet, while disruption is universal, our experiences are deeply specific, personal, subjective. By sharing our varied experiences, we want to capture the diverse spirit of our time. Letting us become aware of the values our everyday lives are based on and through this enabling us to reimagine them in a different way.
We invite you on a brief trip. Together, we transcend the Pandemic; we are the bridge between Future and Past, Pre and Post pandemic. On this journey, we are guided by our emotions, our imagination, our sense of fun. Even though now we have a mask between us, how do we play together a more caring urban future?
EXPLORING THE MEANING OF 'CARE'
We acknowledge that the concept of ‘care’ can have as many different meanings as so many people experience it. It is a concept that is unfinished, contested and ever-evolving. Like feminism, care is more about the question than the answer. With this idea in mind, we asked people in different cities around the world to know their perspectives through a survey with these questions:
What does it mean ‘to care’?
What do you care for?
How does it feel to be cared for?
The responses of nearly 200 people in cities like Mexico, Cape Town and Hanoi are presented as headlines playing with the design of the leading newspapers in the world. Every day the media decide which realities are displayed. Thus, events that create more spectacle are prioritized over everyday experiences. It is time to give space to new realities: care stories matter too. Have you read the news today?
THE COVID-19 CONTEXT
The past 10 months have been hard. COVID-19 has threatened the health and lives of our loved ones, and perhaps ourselves. But it has also been profoundly hard in the way it has affected our daily routines, our ability to plan for the future, our ability to connect, our access to networks of care, and the many ways we have become accustomed to operating in our cities. While there may always be people affected worse, or in worse-off conditions, we feel it is important to recognize the challenge this has presented for our own lives: that this may have been an incredibly disorienting, or even alienating time. We would like to take a moment with you to acknowledge the pain and loss you may feel during this time; to bear witness; to share.
What / who have you missed?
What are you mourning for?
What has COVID taken away from you?
What have you sacrificed?
In addition to our personal feelings of alienation, fear, anxiety or loss, the pandemic has also provided us with new eyes to see the world. These lenses make more visible the range of caring activities that are embedded in the daily functioning of the communities we live in.
As you think about the “new eyes” COVID has given you, what have you noticed that was invisible to you before?
EMOTIONS AND THE CITY
What happens when we acknowledge emotions? What happens when we share how we feel?
We are all emotional beings. Yet, emotions are considered feminine, private and many cases even a form of weakness, something inappropriate in many spaces. However, to deny them is like being asked to stop breathing. We carry our emotions everywhere. They influence how we perceive our surroundings, the city. They don’t stay at home where society appears to think they belong. As the human beings that we are, we need to embrace our emotions, express them, share them. To realize that others are struggling as well, that we are not alone. This enables us to feel empathy for others and increases our awareness of the importance of taking care of ourselves and others.
Right now, masks are covering our faces, our main way to communicate our feelings. It takes a bit of effort to see beyond the mask and to perceive the hidden facial expressions, the emotional human being beneath. And it takes courage to drop our own masks, to let others see that we feel.
FUN AND IMAGINATION
Now we want to take you to another place on this same planet. Can you travel without moving, just through the power of imagination? Our senses constantly keep our minds and bodies connected with the external world. Experiencing this world can be an exciting adventure. Everytime we leave our homes, it is different. No woman ever steps in the same river twice, because it's not the same river and she's not the same woman.
Even though many places are closed, there still is a universe of colours, rhythms, noises, music, faces, wind, lights, voices... which we perceive through the lenses of our personality, mood, past experiences. We all have a unique vision, recreating a million cities out of this one Copenhagen. Copenhagen contains a multitude of possibilities to explore, however, cities only invite you to play if you are a child.
Care also means STOP! Stop being productive! Stop being the ‘ideal man’! Cry, laugh, be free. Play. It can be simple: it can look like taking a new route home, or getting intentionally lost in your own neighborhood, it can be peeking through the ground windows on a cold evening, or following a stranger without reason. Especially as so many ‘fun’ activities are restricted now, we believe it is even more essential that we take time to play!
For us, playing is a way to engage the world that can give us alternative answers to an old question: How do we change the world?
A Caring City is one in which caring for others and for ourselves is valued; our emotions, our needs are seen. A City where we can experience joy and be playful, where life is about more than being productive and contributing to economic growth. The idea of the Caring City puts focus on our social lives and feeling safe in our environment.
Although masks have been in our lives for millennia, since COVID arrived, masks have become a new accessory, an indispensable item. Something intimate. An object we cannot leave home without. In other contexts, masks are used as disguises, in entertainment or as part of ritual practices. In this COVID context, masks represent the virus that harms our public life. We feel stifled behind our blue medical masks, voices are muffled, glasses fog with our breath. They protect us yet, we feel constrained by our masks. We want to question this imaginary by creating new meanings for this new daily accessory.
Masks cover much of our face, reducing some of our most personal features to a square of uniform blue. Rather than fixating on the act of covering, how can we reimagine this rectangle as a bluescreen, an opportunity, a space of imagination? What can our masks exhibit? What superpowers does your mask conceal?
How to create elements that have the sensitivity to create scenographies in people’s lives?
Furthermore, how do we express ourselves among the community in a context where all social related matters have been temporarily stopped?
The interaction with the city had changed due to the pandemic. After contemplating this new reality, we found out face-masks and shields became a common element in our daily life. Attracted by this new element, we wanted to rethink this accessory that came to us in an unexpected way. We took the masks as a symbol and we played with this concept until we twisted it to create new meanings. We decided to appropriate the mask, make it our own, like skin, as an expression of one-selves, like fashion as something we want to wear, which does not cover us but exposes us.
We, citizens, are the actors, the city is the stage, we enact and act in that stage, we are together in this masquerade.
The folded masks were devised, designed and handcrafted by Gabriela Eunice and Paula Gonzalez.
« We want to perceive reality in another way, how they see and how they see me seen. The City is the stage where we go out to act our life, we want a safe space for reflection and fun. »
Gabriela Eunice (@gaeunice) & Paula Gonzalez (@paulinski.paulinski)
Everything that you have seen in this exhibition emphasizes the importance of collaboration, solidarity and empathy.
We are emotional beings, all of us, women and men alike. Our mental health is more important than being productive. And we shouldn’t be afraid to be joyful, to play and to express ourselves.
We invited you to imagine a world where everyone belongs and no one is above or below someone else. Where all identities are valued and there is consideration for the different needs of people. Where how we are treated matters as much as what we possess.